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Can Being Overweight Make You Depressed?

Date Posted February 25th, 2016
Can Being Overweight Make You Depressed?

Having excess weight puts you at risk for an astounding collection of adverse health problems which include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer, which are also some of the leading causes of death. Not only does it affect a person's physical well being, it also puts a toll on emotional health.

A strong link between excess weight and depression has been reported in several studies. Based on the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in 2005–2010, 43% of depressed adults were obese, and depression boosted the chance of developing obesity.  Likewise, the prevalence of obesity increased with the severity of depressive symptoms.

An Australian study that investigated the link between carrying excess weight and depression among 1200 participants demonstrated that middle-aged overweight Australians have higher odds of becoming anxious or depressed compared to their normal weight counterparts.

Although the significant association between excess weight and depression has been widely established, it is not clear which condition comes first. Research published in 2010 in the Archives of General Psychiatry that reviewed 15 studies suggests a bidirectional relationship. Results indicated that obese individuals had a 55% higher risk of developing depression and depressed individuals were at 58% higher risk of becoming obese. But both conditions may be a result of changes in brain chemistry and the body’s reaction to stress.

In the context of a culture that equates beauty with having a slender physique, overweight individuals tend to have lower confidence and self-worth. The physical discomfort and functional limitations brought about by having extra pounds also trigger depression. On the other hand, high levels of stress hormones among people with depression may result in increased accumulation of fats and many anti-depressant medications can lead to weight gain. Depression may also foster unhealthy eating habits and reduced activity, which are the main culprits for having excess weight.

Both obesity and depression cause profound negative effects on health and overall wellbeing. Aside from the associated health problems, these conditions adversely impact mood and social interactions. Even small reductions in weight can make significant differences. Shedding pounds can help overweight individuals overcome depression and defend against chronic illness.

Adopting healthier eating habits, becoming more active, staying mindful of the kinds of food you eat and the amounts you consume can go a long way toward improving your health and the way you feel. Don’t eat when you are not hungry. When you engage in physical activities, your body releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Physical activity is a great way to improve your mood while simultaneously burning calories. Exercising regularly can help you lose weight and keep you in good shape, emotionally as well as physically, allowing you to enjoy a more fulfilling life.

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